Archive for March 2009
Looking for a new way to cook with those late-winter leeks? One of our favorite farms here recommends making quiche-like leek pies, both a cheesy traditional version and a coconut milk-based Indonesian one I tried. Here is Denison Farms’ original recipe for Indonesian Leek Pie, by Elizabeth Kerle. Its custard is mellow yet zesty, with grated lime and the ginger I added. Make a homemade crust if you can and the carrot oatmeal cookies (see below) I recommend for dessert.
Elizabeth’s Indonesian Leek Pie
3 large leeks, cleaned and sliced into thin rings
2 tbs. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large or 2 small eggs, beaten
1/2 can coconut milk
grated rind and juice of 1 large lemon or 2 limes
Saute leek rings in butter with salt on low to medium heat for 30 minutes. Add coconut milk, eggs, lemon or lime juice and grated lemon/lime rind (and grated ginger if you like). Pour into pie crust. Cover with top crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Delish!
And for dessert, these healthful sounding cookies are more indulgent than they seem– a cross between a “coconut macaroon and carrot cake,” as Heidi Swanson’s says, describing her vegan Carrot Oatmeal Cookie recipe. The only sweetener, maple syrup, provided a rich, never cloying sweetness, deepened by the presence of coconut milk. I added raisins to the batter and would have thrown in dried coconut if I’d had it. The moist, gingery confections are chock full of oats, walnuts and carrot shreds. I only wish I had doubled the recipe.
For some reason Oregon’s tiny, briny, succulent and sweet bay shrimp appeal to me far more than their toughier, fishier Jumbo-sized cousins. I just can’t get enough of the little guys. Especially when marinated in a clean lemon-olive oil-dijon mustard vinagrette and scallions and served over salad, crisp and fresh. That was our appetizer tonight and it went a lot better than the North African-style black-eyed peas I made for dinner. But why don’t you ever seem to find bay shrimp in the shell? We got them pre-cooked at Richey’s (eat soon after buying and rinse first). I’ve had other memorable shrimp salads here at The Depot in Albany and an Asian slaw-style one at Sam’s Station in Corvallis. But I guess they are rather known as Oregon pink shrimp, and they are sustainable, in fact, perhaps the most sound of your shrimp choices. Looks like the fresh season starts up in April. Can’t wait:)
Let’s just say simple, unadored lengua (braised beef tongue tacos) topped with cilantro, onion and lime on fresh corn tortillas are my new favorite Mexican dish. We finally made it to Corvallis’s best authentic (and cheap) Mexican restaurant: La Roca, run by the extended Nunez family from Oaxaca that runs other La Rocas and La Rockitas in nearby Philomath and on the coast in Newport and Lincoln City. Apparently the Nunez family are renown boxers in this area too.
If you’ve been scared to try tongue tacos, dig in. It’s really one of our most luscious cuts of meat but I guess the tastebuds (see below) are disconcerting to people. I guess we prefer concealed organ meats. But why is tongue so fatty if it’s a muscle? I guess that’s why it tastes so good.
I love that tongue is a delicacy in both Mexican and Jewish food cultures, or rather a celebrated peasant food that gained prominence out of the need to not waste any part of the beef. Funny that tongue is kosher though, no? I remember being grossed out the few times Nonny and Poppy had a whole tongue boiling in a pot at their house. Where did they get tongue in Richmond? They had nice whole tongue for sale in the esteemed butcher section of Richey’s Market today, probably to cater to their Mexican clientel. The 1950s-style grocery, featuring some good local produce and great deals, is our favorite place to shop outside of the far pricier food co-op and farmer’s market. Richey’s brings you back down to earth.
But Tacos Uurapan, while delicious, can no longer lay claim to the best Mexican comida in town. La Roca is where it’s at. Can’t wait to return for their weekday specials: Mole Oaxaqueno on Wednesdays and Enchiladas Verde on Thursday nights. Just as long as I can have them with lengua.
Never expected I’d be invited to help make challah here in Corvallis, where it first appeared to be an exotic delicacy. But Chef Intaba knows I want to beef up my baking skills, so she invited me to come by the restaurant last night to help her out.
Let’s just say a six-braid challah should be left up to the pros. It was like complicated knitting. So we each did a three-braid (just like doing hair) and stuck the two together for the second loaf (on the right). Great trick, huh? I’m not sure what dough recipe Intaba used, but it had citrusy accents from orange zest. Could you add vanilla too? I like it a bit on the sweet side. Anyone have a good challah recipe to share?
Before challah braiding, I made my own Mediterranean pesto, feta, roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, Kalamata pizza, which Intaba showed me how to roast in Firework’s outdoor clay oven. She also made a spectacular Viennese Jewish pear, walnut and poppy seed pastry tart, substituting Oregon pears for the apples the recipe called for.
Hard to believe we encountered such winter this weekend due east in the Cascade Mountains near Santiam Pass. We lucked out in snagging one of the hard-to-get U.S. Forest Service cabins at the Fish Lake camp for the night. The forest fire outposts all over the Northwest are rented out for winter camping in the off-season. But we almost didn’t find our dear little cabin. We forgot to cross Highway 20 and snowshoed through pillowy drifts for an hour (with heavy overnight packs on!) before realizing we went the wrong way. Doh! Dan’s rental snowshoes kept coming unstrapped. We really need to invest in a pair. I’d love to do it more on hilly terrain where you really need poles. Hey, at least we were spared Charity Noble’s fate–it’s a treacherous pass. We thought we might have to sleep in the snow that night.
But luckily we came to our senses, turned around and eventually made our 3/4-mile trip to our cabin, lit with solar-powered fixtures with a propane stove that didn’t work for heat. But the stove did, so we feasted on hot dogs, baked beans and wine. We were safe at last. We had the solitude of the Oregon wilderness to ourselves. And the plastic-covered mattress sure made us appreciate the hotel in Bend last night!
Well, I hope I’m finally hitting my stride as a food writer with The Oregonian publishing my Slow Food piece and MIX magazine “Eat Here: Newport” review in the past week. Still, as a freelancer, there’s always the fear that editor’s budgets are drying up (and they are).
The Slow Food piece was timely with Alice Waters’ much-debated appearance on 60 Minutes last week. I believe her defense of the universal right to pleasurable food is genuine, but somehow she’s no longer the best standard bearer for mainstreaming the local food movement. Chez Panisse feels out of touch with reality, not too mention charges prices unaffordable to most Americans. New figures such as eco-chef and food justice activist Bryant Terry seem a better bridge to bring good food to underserved communities now. I’ll blog about my radio interview with Terry in another post. For African-Americans, he stresses, it’s about returning to their agrarian roots, where backyard gardens and slow-cooked Sunday meals were de rigeur, before cheap industrialized food led folks astray. It’s not enough to plant gardens in urban ghettos, he says. You have to teach people to cook healthily with those ingredients. Rather than preaching, he feeds people, gaining his converts at the table. The power of a locally-grown peach or olive oil-sauteed collards that make you forget about ham hocks is what wins people over to his side.
I’d never made true baked macaroni and cheese before, until I dove in yesterday with this tempting “Baked Penne With Farmhouse Cheddar and Leeks” recipe from the March issue of Bon Appetit. We can’t get enough of those late winter leeks, especially when Corvallis farms like Sunbow will deliver them to your doorstep at no surcharge. But I lacked the sharp raw-milk cheddar, whole milk and hot sauce the recipe calls for. Rather than run out to the store, Dan challenged me to make the dish with ingredients we already had on hand. So we put that 2 lb. brick of Tillamook Pepper Jack cheese to good use, combined Straus Creamy Whole Milk yogurt with 1 percent milk and added some cayenne pepper to bring out the heat of the cheese. The results were surprisingly spectacular, spicy and sweet from the cooked down leeks. A dollop of Dijon mustard in the cheese custard sauce rounded out the flavors. Dan said it’s among the best mac’-and-cheese dishes he’s had. Maybe I’ll make it with Pepper Jack again. Not exactly the healthiest comfort food, though.
Speaking of baked casseroles, check out the cookbook Bake Until Bubbly, which I reviewed for The Sun here.